When does negligent driving become a criminal offence? Which case won?
Collision between car and motorbike leads to serious injuries
In the mid-afternoon of 18 April 2016, a driver was driving her car along Nicholson Street, Crows Nest in Sydney, looking for a parking spot.
She had an aversion to parking in darkened parking stations and preferred instead to park on the street. In searching for a parking spot, she turned in front of an oncoming motor bike. The motorcyclist tried to evade the car, but there was a collision and the rider was thrown from his bike, suffering significant injuries.
Those injuries included a compound fracture of his right leg, with bone piercing through the skin above the knee, severe ligament damage, various broken bones, dislocated knee, foot laceration and a large open wound on the shin.
The motorcyclist had to stay in hospital for about a month where he had major surgery on his leg. It was not expected that he would be able to walk without assistance until at least four months after discharge from hospital.
Driver convicted of Negligent Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm
The court determined that the driver’s failure to keep a proper lookout was above the mid-range of objective seriousness for an offence of this nature. In other words, an independent observer would have found it extremely difficult to understand how she could not have seen the motorbike if she were keeping a proper lookout as the law requires.
There were no environmental factors that impeded the driver’s view. It was daylight with little or no traffic around and speed was not an issue. In fact, a witness estimated the motorbike’s speed at the time of the collision as between 20-25 kph.
The driver was convicted in the Local Court in the Downing Centre of Negligent Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm (OGBH) contrary to section 117 (1) (b) of the Road Transport Act 2013 and not giving way to an oncoming vehicle contrary to regulation 63 (3) of the Road Rules 2014.
Penalties for negligent driving
The penalties for the Negligent Driving (OGBH) for a first offence are nine months of imprisonment, a three year automatic licence disqualification with a minimum of twelve months and a fine of up to $2,200.00. The offence against the Road Rules carries a fine of up to $2,200.00.
The magistrate convicted the driver on a plea of guilty, reduced the licence disqualification to the minimum twelve months and fined her a total sum of $1,400.
Driver appeals to District Court against severity of sentence
The driver appealed the decision to the District Court, saying the sentencing was too harsh (severity appeal), asking the District Court to allow her appeal, quash the conviction and place her on a section 10 (1) (b) non-conviction good behaviour bond under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.
That way she would not have a criminal conviction recorded against her and would keep her licence.
It was up to the District Court to determine whether to allow her appeal and quash the conviction.